Cards Stacked Against The Hatters Once More, As Unbeaten Run Ends
A first home match in over three weeks – and the inaugural Saturday afternoon match of the campaign to end with darkness falling – saw the Hatters suffer a fourth defeat in as many meetings with the ‘Cards’ of Woking, and an end to their run of four National League matches without defeat.
One first-half and two second-half goals kept the visitors firmly in control, with substitute Frank Mulhern scoring late on to reduce the eventual arrears at a subdued Edgeley Park.
County took to the field on a wet, autumnal afternoon – and showing two changes from the starting line-up at Bromley four days previously. Having recovered from their respective foot and facial injures, captain Paul Turnbull and loanee striker Devante Rodney returned to the fray – replacing Jordan Keane and Mulhern, who were both named among the substitutes.
Early chances were at a premium in the game’s rather cagey opening stages, before a first attempt on goal, after 12 minutes, saw leading County scorer Elliot Osborne fire over from just inside the box – and shortly afterwards Rodney, at closer range, shot wide of the left post.
Counter-attacks on the part of the Cards led to a Dave Tarpey shot that was blocked by Festus Arthur, and quick thinking from Tyler Garratt to dispossess Jake Hyde when the visiting striker was through on goal.
But midway through the half, Hyde made his presence count to give Woking the lead. A quickly-taken corner on the left by Tarpey to Jamra Loza led to the latter’s cross that was converted by the Cards’ top goal-getter after Ben Hinchliffe had initially kept the ball out.
The visitors, without a league victory since the last day of August, forced a further five corners in the 10 minutes that followed, as they sought to extend their advantage. And Hinchliffe had to be at his best in tipping away one of skipper Josh Casey’s in-swinging set-piece deliveries from the right, as well as, subsequently, a well-struck Tarpey drive from 20 yards out.
The Hatters struggled to get a foothold in the game – with their only remaining first-half chance of note arriving five minutes before the break, when Osborne cut in from the right, before firing into the near side-netting.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Woking 1 (Hyde, 22).
Attacking the Cheadle End upon the resumption, County began to pose more of a threat going forward – albeit without creating clear-cut opportunities in the final third until the 58th minute when Tom Walker fired narrowly shy of the near post, moments following his own corner from the right.
The visitors were content to sit deep and counter on the break – with Loza testing Hinchliffe after the hour-mark with a low drive that County’s Number One dived to smother, before, several minutes later, executing a fine double-save to deny Hyde in front of the right post.
But with just over 20 minutes left on the clock, Woking’s lead was doubled, following a break down the right that saw Tarpey’s delivery hit the far upright and go in.
Then, seven minutes later, the Cards netted a third, and Hyde his second, as the striker’s glancing header from Loza’s cross on the left hit the crossbar, before deflecting over the line off Hinchliffe.
Hinchliffe denied both goal-scorers opportunities to add to their respective tallies – using his hands to keep out a Hyde header and his legs to block a shot from Tarpey – ahead of County’s consolation goal four minutes from time, when Mulhern tapped home on the rebound, after fellow substitute Ben Jackson’s cross from the left had been deflected on to the far post.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Mulhern, 86), Woking 3 (Hyde, 22 and 76; Tarpey, 69).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Palmer, Arthur, Garratt (Hammill, 68); Turnbull (Capt.), S Walker; Thomas (Mulhern, 56), Osborne, T Walker (Jackson, 75); Rodney.
Unused Subs: Keane, Ormson.
Man of the Match: Minihan.
Attendance: 3,888 (94 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.